The Light of the Holidays

The holidays are typically a time of joy, merriment and family. However, for many people, it’s the first holiday they will celebrate without their loved one, such as their spouse.  Many of our own residents experience this uncomfortable and saddening milestone.

We know this is common to those even outside of our community. Each year, our chaplains host a special “Longest Night Service”, honoring those who have passed during the year and showing support to those who are still grieving. We spoke with one of our full-time chaplains, Rev. Kathleen Miko, about some ways to make the holidays a little easier after a loss.

Rev. Kathleen Miko

What inspired you to start hosting the “Longest Night Service”?
Rev. Kathleen Miko: There were so many people I saw lose their spouses the first year I was here. There were so many activities and festive celebrations but none of them were participating. I wanted to find a way to let them know, they aren’t alone. Over the years it has brought together people going through similar emotions and allowed them to build a stronger support network within the community.

What suggestions do you have for someone who is celebrating their first holiday season without their loved one?
Rev. Kathleen Miko: Grief can wash over you at any time and it’s ok to grieve, there is no timeline on grief. For the first holiday season, expect to be sad and frustrated. However, do not try to dismiss the person that is gone from your thoughts. Do something in honor of them, for example, set a place for them at the table or put up their favorite decorations. Make it a celebration of them.

How can other be supportive to someone who has lost a loved one? 
Rev. Kathleen Miko: Just be there to listen. Let them talk, even if they say the same thing over and over. No two people grieve the same way. Invite them to your celebrations, but accept their declines and politely invite again (without being pushy). Let them know they are loved. Don’t expect them to enjoy the holidays as much as they used to, their lives are completely different now, but they can still experience joy and happiness, which will come in time.

This year’s Longest Night Service will be held on Thursday, December 21st at 4:15pm in the Chapel.